Herniated discs are caused by a rupture to the fibrous tissues which lies outside the intervertebral disc. When this occurs, the inner part of the disc known as nucleus pulposus can bulge out. If this presses on nearby spinal nerves it can cause pain. As intervertebral discs help the spine to move, it can also lead to reduce mobility within this area. Other symptoms can include pain, tingling or numbness in the neck, buttocks, legs and feet. There are many causes of this condition, from natural wearing of the disc due to the aging process, trauma, as well as over exercise or under exercise. Sudden movements such as twists or turns can lead to herniation and those in occupations which require frequent squatting or repetitive movements involving the spine, may also be more prone to developing this condition. In some cases, the cause of this is unknown, and is thus referred to as idiopathic. You may be more susceptible to developing this condition if you have previous trauma to the back or spine. Similarly, herniated discs may also make you more prone to developing other back and pain related conditions later in life. Although many symptoms resolve themselves after a few weeks, it is important to seek medical attention if the pain worsens or lasts longer than several weeks.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or other medications which relax the muscles and reduce the pain. Steroid injections may also be recommended and there are several types with each working differently. These help to reduce inflammation and block pain. Alternatively, they can also be used as part of a diagnostic procedure to help your physician locate the source of the pain. Physical therapy and education on correct posture and exercises to promote strength around the muscles may also be recommended. Physical therapy can include both active (exercise) and inactive (electrical muscle stimulation and massage). Not only can physical therapy help reduce pain and symptoms, but it can also help to prevent a recurrence of back pain in the future. Exercises can help to strengthen the back and training in appropriate ways to lift can help to avoid injury in the future. Other forms of non-surgical treatment include osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation.
For more serious symptoms, your doctor may suggest surgery. Typically, surgery will be suggested if symptoms have not improved after two months, symptoms have not responded to other treatments, or you are experiencing progressive weakness in the back area or extremities. A Discectomy is surgery for herniated discs and involves removal of a small part of the disc, typically the area which is pressing on the nerve root.